MOTOR INDUSTRY MUST PLUG INTO CHANGE
IS anyone still not convinced that we need an electric revolution and sooner rather than later replace the internal combustion engine with battery-power?
The please just consider the following figures. Global population is expected to grow from 6.7 billion to 9 billion by 2050. Today, there are 600 million cars on the planets but just by keeping pace with population increase that figure is predicted to explode to 2.5 billion cars by 2050, just 40 years from now.
Biggest area for expansion? China, India - in terms of vehicle penetration, the US currently stands at 800 cars per 1,000 persons compared to 50 cars per 1,000 person in China.
Of course there is still plenty of mileage left in ICE, the internal combustion engine as we know and love it. It will get smaller and more efficient but even after 100 years it is still terribly wasteful. As a rule of thumb a good petrol engine is just 25 per cent efficient which means that just 25 per cent of the energy contained in a gallon of fuel is converted to propulsion. The remaining 75 per cent goes in heat, vibration and overcoming the friction in the engine, gearbox and drivetrain. And that’s after 100 years of development.
We need to change, we need as radical an overhaul as when the ICE replaced the horse and cart, not just a bit of tinkering trying to make a petrol engine one per cent more efficient.
Hybrids won’t do it for us. They are, as Andy Palmer, Senior Vice President at Nissan, described them a `bridging technology’ in that they still burn fossil fuel and emit carbon.
The next generation of hybrids such as we’ll see in the Vauxhall Ampera from 2011 will bring an improvement but it is as best a temporary measure.
A generation from now, two at the very most, we will need to have electric cars but able to be recharged by plugging into a clean-sourced electricity grid. Not much point in having millions of battery cars using energy from coal-burning power stations because in global terms the net improvement, if any, would be small.
The challenges lying ahead for the automotive industry are immense, technical challenges, challenges in educating buyers, political ones and to its credit the industry has embraced them and is rushing to meet them head on.
Someone recently said to me that the car industry has become boring and that all cars are the same. On the contrary, I think it’s electrifying!
This article first appeared on blog.perrys.co.uk